Israeli Microsatellite, Most Compact And Least Expensive For Its Payload To Test New Equipment, Materials

June 15, 1998

NEW YORK, N.Y. and HAIFA, Israel, June 16, 1998 -- Israel's second TechSat, a 106-lb. microsatellite to be launched June 23, is considered, for its payload, to be the least expensive and most energy efficient. It will test equipment never before tested in space, including superconducting materials that could allow for more channels in a smaller space, and a charged-particle detector that could improve the durability of future satellites. In addition, it contains a stabilization system that allows for a simpler launch with no spin, and a newly developed horizon sensor that will keep it pointed in the correct direction.

The Gurwin TechSatII will be launched from Kazakhstan on a Russian Zenith rocket. It was designed and built by a team of students and engineers at the Asher Space Research Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The project was led by Professor Moshe Guelman in cooperation with a dozen Israeli aerospace firms. It was funded by its namesake, Joseph Gurwin of Long Island, N.Y., who also funded the first Gurwin TechSat.

Microsatellites, less expensive to build and launch than their larger counterparts, are becoming increasingly important as their capabilities for research and communications are developed. The Technion team has developed advanced electronic equipment that will fully utilize the benefits of microsatellites while maintaining low weight and low power consumption.

TechSat will generate 20 watts of power from four solar panels. All the hardware that maintains TechSat's functioning requires very little power, less than 10 watts. This leaves more than 10 watts available for the payload: instruments for aerospace science, geoscience and astronomy, as well as communications and remote sensing.

One of TechSat's experiments will test superconducting materials that could allow communications satellites to carry more channels in a smaller space by using superconducting filters to separate the channels. There will also be a detector for charged particles; these particles that can damage spacecraft components such as computers. Engineers will use this detector to study the radiation to which the satellite is exposed and determine how to improve the durability of future designs.

An ultraviolet sensor will examine the light scattered from earth's atmosphere to determine the ozone content of the atmosphere over the Middle East. This compact instrument offers an alternative to current bulky and expensive monitoring equipment while providing nearly the same sensitivity and resolution. An x-ray instrument that could allow significant future advances in x-ray imaging for astronomy will be tested. The Technion satellite will also store and transmit electronic messages for amateur radio operators. A video camera able to record details as small as 171 feet will return images of the earth's surface.

Satellites often require a launch that gives them a specific orientation and a rotation that helps keep them stable. Gurwin TechSat II contains a stabilization system that allows it to be launched into an arbitrary orientation with no spin, and to stabilize and orient itself after its release. It will provide a field test for a newly developed horizon sensor that will help the spacecraft stay pointed in the correct direction. The accuracy of fine pointing is estimated to be stable to within one-half to one-tenth of a degree. The satellite will carry an array of laser reflectors for determining its position with an accuracy of 2-4 inches. The onboard computer consists of two CPUs and an emergency backup that can switch between CPUs or reboot either of them in case of emergency.

The satellite program at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology aims to provide training for aerospace engineers as well as quick and inexpensive testing of new space hardware. It fosters and relies on a working relationship between industry and academia to develop low-cost, compact instruments for use in space. An algorithm developed there will be used in the next Pathfinder mission.

The first Gurwin TechSat was launched in 1995, but the satellite was lost when the launch vehicle failed to achieve orbit. This second TechSat launch is an important step in the Technion's program to help Israel gain a role in the $12 trillion global communications market. Future projects include such additions as propulsion, more power, high-resolution remote sensing, and groups or constellations of satellites for e-mail, fax, paging and other communications applications.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the country's premier scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in communications, electronics, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine, among others. The majority of Israel's engineers are Technion graduates, as are most of the founders and managers of its high-tech industries. The university's 11,000 students and 700 faculty study and work in the Technion's 19 faculties and 30 research centers and institutes in Haifa.

The American Technion Society (ATS) is the university's support organization in the United States. Based in New York City, it is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel. The ATS has raised $650 million since its inception in 1940, half of that during the last six years. Technion societies are located in 24 countries around the world.

American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

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